Final Fantasy XV: A Review

Well, I finally went and did it.  I managed to get on the blog and write another post.

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Yeah, I know.

Wait, that wasn’t how I was going to start this post.  Ahem.  What I meant to say was: I finally went and bought the PlayStation 4.

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Yep, that’s what I did.  I figured that, with Mass Effect: Andromeda coming out in March, and Final Fantasy XV already out, I might as well.  If it turns out they both stink, I can always sell the thing, and have done with it.

So, I spent all Sunday afternoon playing Final Fantasy XV, and I thought it would be worth it to tell you what I thought.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep it spoiler-free.

Basically, I’m in love.  The very first Final Fantasy game I ever played was Final Fantasy X, ffxback in high school.  I loved it so much, I asked for the PS2 for Christmas that year, just to play that game.  When I basically inherited the PS3 from my brother, the first game I got (after Mass Effect) was the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X.

Oh, and X-2 is a joke.  I pretend it doesn’t exist.

After that, I played Final Fantasy VIII, and loved it, even with the old graphics and no voice-overs.  I tried Final Fantasy VII, and I have to ffviiiadmit (please don’t hate me, purists) that I didn’t like it as much as the others I played.  I can see why it’s ground-breaking, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that the heroes are eco-terrorists.

I tried Final Fantasy XII, and hated it.  The story was promising (a bit too wide a scope, but they were trying really hard), but the battle system sucked so horribly that the game was unplayable (Gambits?  Seriously, SquareEnix?  Here, let’s program the game to play itself.  Sure, that’ll go over well).

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I even tried Final Fantasy XIII, and it was better, but not as good as X and VIII.  For one, you never heard the victory fanfare.  At all.  It can’t be Final Fantasy without this:

They say there’s a Victory Fanfare for the XIIIs.  But it’s not the Victory Fanfare.  That’s just unforgivable.

And the story was . . . fair.  The battle system was better, sort of a cross between the traditional ATB (Active Time Battle) system or the turn-based system from X, and melee-style.  I gave up on XIII at the final boss, thanks to the one-hit-wonder move of his that caused instant game-overs, so I don’t know how it ended.

And don’t even get me started on the XIII sequels.  This is Final Fantasy.  They don’t do true sequels, people.

ffixOnce I had download capability with the PS3 (thank you, younger brother who just decided to let me keep it), I started Final Fantasy IX, and I really like that one as well.  So far, it has my favorite soundtrack (with XV running a close second; see below).  I got too deep into Mass Effect to play it all the way through (got distracted by shiny spaceships), but I definitely plan to go back to it.

The point of all this is that I may not be a true Final Fantasy geek, one of the ones who played the original game on the Super Nintendo way back when, and then walked with them through the whole series.  I do have a stake in the more recent installments in the series, however; enough to say that Final Fantasy XV is a good game.

One of the first things you see when you start the game is: “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers.”  That’s true (so far, at least; I’ve only been playing for two days).

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After two days of playing, I love almost everything about this game.  The story is a great one, with a wide scope, but that personal feel that made X and VIII so wonderful.  The four main characters–Prince Noctis (that’s you), Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto–are just four friends taking an adventure one minute, and then they’re the saviors of the world in the next, just like a good Final Fantasy story should be.

I’ll give you the bare-bones plot, no more than what you’d get in the first few minutes.  Prince Noctis is being sent by his father, King Regis (a redundant name if I’ve ever heard one, but hey, bastardized Latin is fun) to get married to the lovely Lady Lunafreya.  Noctis’s three friends are going with him.  Sounds innocent enough, right?

Oh, yeah.  Then the excrement encounters the rotary air impeller.

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Beautiful, detailed environment.

The creators bragged that Final Fantasy XV was an “open world” from the beginning, and that’s true.  You can take a ride in your car and go pretty much wherever you like, within a few boundaries, of course.  That’s fun, but . . . it gets a little unwieldy.  You think Mass Effect was bad about sidequests that take forever?  It took me four hours of gameplay to get from the opening introduction, to the next plot point.  In the previous games, it was more linear, at least at the beginning.  They didn’t throw you into the sidequest deep end until after you got your airship, at least.  But, the game is set up so that you know exactly which quests are on the side, and which are plot-relevant.

I finally had to disregard some sidequests and proceed to the next bit of the plot.  The suspense was killing me.  The only bad part is . . . now I have incomplete quests on my mission list.

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Yeah, I’ll have to go back for those.  Eventually.  Yeah.  Just to maintain my sanity.

The worldbuilding is amazing.  They cross pretty much every genre and culture you can think of, and somehow it manages to work for them.  The main characters, as I said, have those bastardized-Latin names, and one has a proper British accent.  The mechanic who fixes your car is a backwoods-country-hick type.  The most recent town I was in had music and buildings that were vaguely Spanish (see above picture).  There are cars and cell phones, and swords and magic, all in the same place, and it actually makes sense somehow.

The music is spectacular.  I was a bit disappointed to see that Nobuo Uematsu wasn’t the composer this time around, but I can’t say anything against Yoko Shimomura.

Again, the music crosses all kinds of genres: rock, waltzes with a full orchestra, John-Williams-like battle music with vocals, blues, all of it.  Each one fits perfectly with the map you’re in, or the battle you’re fighting.  Even my mother was impressed with the soundtrack, and commented that “that’s better music than I heard in the other ones.”

As for the battle system, I was tempted to not bother buying the game at all after my brother told me that it wasn’t the usual ATB or turn-based system.  He said it was more like the melee-style they used in Kingdom Hearts (which I tried, but never got into).  He said that it was “the adult version of Kingdom Hearts,” and I nearly cried.  But, after watching a gameplay demo, I decided to go for it.  The selling point was that the battle system wasn’t the kind that most fighting games go for, where you need lots of complicated combinations of buttons to do fancy moves.  Basically, in this one, all you need to do is press Circle over and over to attack, Square to dodge, and throw in a couple other combinations, and there you go.  There is also the “Wait Mode” option, where the battle will freeze to allow you some time to figure out what you’re doing next.  I’ve tried it both ways, and I’m leaning towards the Active Mode, rather than Wait Mode, because it didn’t seem like I had any control or consistency with when it decided to Wait.  I’m planning on revisiting it, though, just in case.

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It took me a few hours to really get it, and I had to go through the tutorials (which are optional in this installment, unlike the previous games where you had to watch the tutorial on how to use the Sphere Grid or the Junction system EVERY SINGLE TIME).  But, I have to say, I’m getting used to it, and it’s not the deal-breaker I thought it would be at the outset.  Just remember — friendly fire is turned ON.  So yes, you CAN zap your allies with that Fire spell.  Don’t do that.


Long story short: this game looks like the one we’ve been waiting for.  The plot is great so far; the battle system is new, but works; the soundtrack is amazing; the worldbuilding is epic, in the true sense of the word.  It’s possible, of course, that the creators will fall on their faces by the end (*cough cough* Final Fantasy XIII), but it doesn’t look like they’re headed that way just yet.  Of course, I’ve played for about . . . eight hours, and I’ve heard that there’s over one hundred hours of gameplay in this thing, so there’s a lot of room for screw-ups, but still.

As of right now, Final Fantasy XV gets a solid 4.5 stars out of 5.  I’ll let you know how it ends.

 

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